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It’s getting to that time of year when I’ll be expected to make a prediction about the upcoming 2021 football season, including both national and Southeastern Conference races. I realize at the same time I rely too much of the Almost Perfect Picks Department to select SEC games, and the Nerds are on their annual six-month vacation.

Thus, I have to dig deep in the off-season. I much appreciate Charlie Potter’s in-depth research on those SEC teams Alabama will be playing, which is a start.

The first demand on my thoughts will come up in just over a week when SEC Media Days are held in Hoover, July 19-22.

I aim to be prepared.

As do most journalists, I tend to read a lot of articles on the subject I cover, which is Alabama athletics, most notably Crimson Tide football. That has included summer reading on SEC teams and on how others see the outlook for them.

In some ways, everyone seems to be on the same page. That usually means at the top and at the bottom. It’s that pesky middle, say 3-5, that is the real problem. One key, of course, is the luck of the draw in crossover games, those games in which a team from the East draws hard, medium, or easy from the West and vice versa.

Among the tools of my trade in making selections is printing out an SEC schedule grid; not the one with the helmets, because I have to make some notes in the boxes. And then I make guesses. Educated guesses, some might agree, but guesses nonetheless.

Truth be known, not many want to revisit their preseason predictions at the end of the season.

First of all, here’s how I see the SEC East:

  1. Georgia (12-0 overall, 8-0 SEC) — Simply no game on the schedule the Bulldogs should not be heavy favorites after the non-conference Clemson opener, and I’m picking UGA in that game — the best of the non-conference games for any SEC team. Mid-season game at Auburn and annual Jacksonville game vs. Florida are toughest conference tests.
  2. Florida (9-3, 5-3) — Could the Gators be a little better than this? Yes. But they draw Alabama at home and LSU on the road for their cross-conference games. Florida and Georgia have their open dates the week before playing.
  3. Kentucky (9-3, 5-3) — Florida’s win over the Wildcats puts the Gators ahead in the standings. UK could have a tough middle of the season with Florida and LSU in Lexington and Georgia in Athens in a three-game stretch, but the rest should be doable.
  4. Missouri (8-4, 4-4) — Home games against Texas A&M and Florida might give the Tigers an upset win and an early game at Kentucky is also a possible win that would give Mizzou a surprisingly good season.
  5. South Carolina (5-7,2-6) — One of three SEC East teams with a new head coach and the Gamecocks are going with a rookie in Shane Beamer. Their crossover games are at Texas A&M and home to Auburn and they have Mizzou at the wrong Columbia — the one in Missouri.
  6. Tennessee (5-7, 1-7) — New coach Josh Heupel inherits a mess, including a number of the best former Vols now playing elsewhere. Alabama and Ole Miss are tough crossover games, but UT ends with a bang, getting a lone win in Nashville.
  7. Vanderbilt (4-8, 1-7) — Also a new head coach and one in his first shot in this position, Vandy grad Mark Lea has one shot at an SEC win before the season-ending game in Knoxville, and that’s a home game against crossover opponent Mississippi State.
1. Georgia 11-1 (8-0)
2. Florida 9-3 (5-3) [1-0]
3. Kentucky 9-3 (5-3) [0-1]
4. Missouri 6-6 (3-5)
5. South Carolina 3-9 (2-6)
6. Tennessee 3-9 (1-7)
7. Vanderbilt 2-10 (0-8)
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